BEIJING - China has approved human testing of a locally developed potential AIDS vaccine, the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday, just days before World AIDS Day.
Officials have pledged to speed up the approval process for anti-AIDS drugs in China, where the United Nations has warned AIDS victims could rise to 10 million by 2010 unless serious steps are taken to fight the epidemic.
"Researchers infected a monkey with the AIDS virus after injecting the compound vaccine into its body, and found no abnormal reactions occurred," Xinhua quoted the State Food and Drug Administration of China as saying.
The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative has said dozens of potential vaccines are being tested and more than 70 human clinical trials have taken place although none had yet promised to conquer the virus.
China, which has been reluctant to acknowledge the spread of the disease, has also pledged to strengthen surveillance of HIV/AIDS and to begin nationwide HIV testing among people who have sold blood.
Whole villages in the central province of Henan were infected when millions sold blood to unsanitary clinics in the 1990s, although authorities say the country has fewer than 1 million HIV carriers and about 80,000 with full-blown AIDS.
"We will also search for HIV carriers among prisoners and people in the drug abstention house," Xinhua quoted Vice Health Minister Gao Qiang as saying.
Last year on World AIDS Day, Premier Wen Jiabao shook hands with AIDS patients at a Beijing hospital in a symbolic display of commitment to fighting the disease.
But efforts to step up AIDS prevention remain shackled by politics and by conservative attitudes toward sex.
Last week, university authorities halted a plan to distribute free condoms on Beijing campuses, saying students should be educated against pre-marital sex.